The Army has kicked off the initial deployment of a new platform intended to streamline the contract writing process for its procurement workforce.
The effort is being spearheaded by the program executive office for enterprise information systems, and it comes as the service is pursuing a wide-ranging IT modernization agenda.
The first group to get the new Army Contract Writing System (ACWS) includes 104 contracting personnel at 29 locations. The next rollout — slated for the first quarter of fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1 — will add about 350 users from Army Contracting Command and the National Guard, according to a press release.
The ACWS is intended to replace the Standard Procurement System/Procurement Desktop-Defense and the Procurement Automated Data and Document System. And it will also be integrated with the Virtual Contracting Enterprise, General Fund Enterprise Business System, Corps of Engineers Financial Management System and the Logistics Modernization Program, according to the Army.
The goal is to provide “a single enterprise writing and management system” for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement and facilitate contracting, per the release.
With the initial version of the platform, users will be able to generate solicitation, award and modification documents in Uniform Contract Format; generate procurement data standard-compliant transactions; import vendors from the System for Award Management; link to the Procurement Integrated Enterprise Environment Clause Logic Service to complete required clause interviews; receive purchase requests from the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System; and connect to the Federal Procurement Data System to complete contract action reports, according to the Army.
In a statement, Steve Edsall, ACWS product lead at program executive office for enterprise information systems, said the deployment “marks the beginning of a new era of Army contract writing.”
Officials plan to upgrade ACWS based on user input.
“We’re proud to provide significantly improved integrated contract writing capabilities for the contracting workforce, enabling them to work faster and more efficiently to help the Army meet its mission,” Deputy Assistance Secretary of the Army for Procurement Megan Dake said in a statement. “We owe our teammates this, and we’ll continue to get feedback and work with the product manager to improve the system as more capability is rolled out to [the] larger organization.”
The service’s procurement enterprise is vast. For example, Army Contracting Command has more than 6,000 military and civilian employees and executes more than 165,000 contract actions each fiscal year, according to its website.
Officials are also looking to share ACWS-related tech with other Department of Defense components.
The Army “partnered with the Defense Logistics Agency to host and manage the software environment, providing significant cost savings for the program. This strategy also enables future opportunities for shared capability development with the Navy, Air Force and DLA — and provides an opportunity to replace legacy systems earlier,” per the release.
The Army certainly isn’t the only DOD component looking for technologies to improve the contract writing process. The Pentagon’s Chief Digital and AI Office is exploring a tool called “Acqbot” that uses artificial intelligence to generate text. The prototype is part of the CDAO’s Tradewind initiative.
“We’re asking questions like, can an AI or can a bot write a contract? Like, is that possible?” Bonnie Evangelista, Tradewind execution lead, said at the ATARC federal IT modernization summit earlier this year. “Can vendors write proposals on their phones? … Those are like big, bold statements and those are the things that like from a practitioners’ perspective and contracting — those are the things we’re considering.”